Ten years after its publication, this superbly written, thoroughly researched book is, sadly, just as relevant. And although documented with examples from the US media, politics and culture, the book perfectly relates to Britain and, without a doubt, the rest of the world. Some of those real-life facts from the US are astonishing; did you know, for example, that in the 'Bible belt' the divorce rate is far higher, and so is the consumption of raunchy TV shows, compared to America's liberal regions?
I am very grateful to Levy for explaining so well in this excellent book what a tragic mistake we're all making today - why us women are so profoundly wrong in thinking that we are empowered and liberated when, for example, we now imitate strippers and/or porn stars in dress and behaviour; when we subject ourselves to mutilation (including genital) under the guise of cosmetic surgery; when we forego education, hard work and generally being excellent people, and choose instead to focus on our (increasingly standardized) looks ... and imagine we're doing it for our own gratification.
'Female Chauvinist Pigs' tells us how and why this all started, how our whole culture and way of life have become so pornified, why everything in our society today has to be ''sexy'' in order to be noteworthy. For women, but resolutely not for men, being ''sexy'' is the one and only factor by which our worth as human beings is measured; and sadly, women willingly participate in this tragic situation. Levy successfully takes apart the contemporary prevailing argument, the gigantic misconception we all now seem to have: that striving for sexiness at all cost is somehow feminist, liberating, and altogether some kind of wonderful and empowering thing for women everywhere. It is not.
To those who believe it is, I warmly recommend this book. Likewise, if you are trying to make up your mind, you will find here a lot of intelligent arguments to help. A brilliant but easy read, which made me re-think a whole lot of my own assumptions.
Does it concern you that vacuous it-girls are held up as role models for young women? If the answer is yes, then this is the book for you.
Levy, like a lot of women, seems perplexed by the way that intelligent straight women are going to pole dancing clubs for kicks and that women who essentially feign desire for a living are used as a symbol of female sexual liberation.
The book primarily explores American culture, but don't be put off by this, many of the points she makes are relevant to all women. There are chapters about 'Sex in the City', CAKE parties, the lesbian phenomenon 'bois' (the 'bois' interviewed seem particualrly scathing about other women), Playboy and teaching abstinence to American school kids. There is also a handy and very readable chapter about the feminist movement in New York over the past 40 years.
Levy's arguments always seem balanced and reasonable (although she gets her point across), so don't expect a 200 page feminist rant.
The book does contain a high sexual content so might be one to avoid if you are easily offended.
Provocative, challenging, accessible. I'm so gald that someone has had the courage to write this book. Highly recommended.
I have thought for a long time that the way young girls are encouraged to conform to a standard of beauty and behaviour which is only a short distance from that of a female star of an adult movie is a retrograde step. Feminism was meant to get women away from the objectification of their bodies and on to more important issues. Instead things seem to have got worse. Ariel Levy makes the point that women appear to be choosing this way of dressing and behaving though the interviews she recounts show that there is something more at work here.
Even university and college educated women see pole dancing as liberating but the author recounts a conversation with a young woman who visits lap dancing clubs because she thinks the bored expressions on the performers' faces are hilarious. It seems that women who do things like visiting these formerly men-only clubs are trying to prove a point that nowhere is closed to them anymore. While the book is describing American culture similar situations are arising in the UK as described in Natasha Walter's 'Living Dolls' and Kat Banyard's 'The Equality Illusion'.
Levy comments on the clothes marketed to young girls which highlight their sexuality and asks if this is really what we want young girls to aspire to. She asks if looking like an escapee from an adult film set is really what feminism was aiming for. The majority of the women she speaks to say they think behaving like a slut is fun because it's all a big joke but to the reader there is an air of desperation in their so-called enjoyment.
Their relationships with men seem to lack depth and emotion and such events as `rainbow parties' (don't ask) show that the girls' behaviour is all about putting on a show or a demonstration rather than relating to men as people. This is what the raunch culture is all about - putting on a show of being a slut - and probably backing it up with sluttish behaviour. The author points out it is not necessary for teenage girls to behave like this as teenage boys would be interested in them however they dressed and behaved.
The author's anger at the way girls and women are selling themselves short by embracing the raunch culture comes through loud and clear and will resonate with anyone who has wondered at, or been shocked by, the way girls and young women dress and behave today. This is a well written and thought provoking book which questions popular culture today. It was published in 2006 and the situation has become even more extreme in the four years since then as evidenced in Natasha Walter's recently published book referred to above. All women, and men as well, need to read this and ask themselves whether this is really what anyone wanted when they campaigned for equality of opportunity for both men and women.
I would really recommend this book to anyone interested in feminist topics, or any student that is studying media studies, literature, gender studies, politics etc. There are quite a few books written on the role of the media and female gender roles, but Levy's book is the original and the most engaging one. She comments on American mass culture, and American history, so, being British, some of the cultural facets she discusses (such as girls gone wild) were news to me. However, her discussions are applicable to a reader from any Western culture. Levy reveals why the kind of post feminist ideas about liberation (i.e. sex and the city ideals) are actually damaging roles for women, which do little more than reestablishing the existing (gender unbalanced) status quo.
This is an easy to read book which ought to be compulsory reading for all girls aged over fourteen. Though much of the content relates to American culture, it is equally relevant in the UK. Any woman who has a daughter who thinks pole-dancing is 'empowering' should also read it - it's horrifying.
The brevity of this book does not diminish it's impact. It's fantastically funny but brings HUGE relief to me to read that there ARE women out there who see this "pornification" of our culture for what it is.
It isn't empowerment and the reasons WHY it isn't are explained so intelligently in this book. Ariel Levy is genius.
This book will not only make you laugh, but it will equip you with responses to those women who SUPPORT the pornification of our culture and want to be like "one of the boys." Thank you Ariel Levy!
This book is - or should be - a wakeup call for modern women and men. As Levy says in one of the books most revealing passages "Why does the new liberation look so much like the old objectification?".
It's a question which has bothered me a lot: why were many of my intelligent, supposedly liberated friends saying they wanted to become strippers, or have a boob job or wear Playboy t-shirts? Before reading this book I thought I was the only one who felt that we'd been hoodwinked. Many people say that Levy is a prude or that she is demonising women who do these things by calling them 'female chauvenist pigs'.
This is not the objective of the book at all - of women who genuinely enjoy and feel fulfilled by these things Levy actually says herself that she wishes them well.
Her question is why can't we come up with some new ideas about sex and gender - surely becoming a stripper or a porn star isn't the apex of feminine sexual fulfillment or achievement, is it? Is this the best we can do?
We've come round in a circle from trying to free ourselves from restrictive gender stereotypes to embracing them in the name of liberation, when in fact they are just as restrictive as ever. A vast swathe of the media (including both men's and women's magazines, who are some of the worst offenders)are selling us the idea that women have to look hot and be up for it all the time. They're feeding us the line and we're falling for it. When actually it's all about marketing - this hyper-sexualised, porno ideal can only be achieved by consuming more. More plastic surgery, more clothes, shoes, makeup, hair-extensions, more waxing and beauty treatments.
These people do not have our best interests at heart. They don't care if we feel good about ourselves or whether we're fulfilled or happy, they just want to make money and they've discovered that sex with everything is the best way to do that.
Why are we chasing an idea of sex that is so joyless (and ultimately sexless)? Why should women have to change themselves to enjoy sex - can't we just be ourselves, why do we have to be a pornstar or a stripper or a glamour model or whatever?
Hopefully Levy's book will only be the start of the debate, we need to re-evaluate our position on sex, on gender. Levy asks some good questions and we shoudl all be looking for the answers. The current polarisation that is happening between the sexes and the pernicious attituides to sex (and to women) pervading our society are having a corrosive effect on us all.
In Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy discusses the growing trend of young women's appropriation of stereotypically masculine behaviour. In this case, she means women who have bought into raunch culture: women who go to strip clubs and who are obsessed with porn. The argument is tricky, because so many women and men claim that this appropriation is actually empowering to women. Women have the chance to now both objectify and be the objects of objectification; the viewer and the viewed. Women now have the opportunity to enjoy this traditionally masculine culture.
Yet far from empowering, Levy argues that many women are not finding new found sexual pleasure as a result of their access to porn and sex shows and the growing acceptance of casual sex. Rather, she attempts to prove that women are not often drawn to this culture looking for sexual gratification--instead, she argues, it's about fitting into a masculine world and what was once a traditionally all boys club (and in the process, perhaps gaining power?) It's still about equating sexuality not with physical pleasure but male desirability (ie. The willingness of so many women to participate in Girls Gone Wild videos and the rise of casual sex? Women want proof that men find them desirable).
In the chapter, "From Womyn to Bois," Levy discusses the rise of boi culture in the lesbian scene. Here, I think her argument falls flat, and she seems to imply that for FTMs, transitioning into becoming men is about the total embodiment of a traditional and sexist form of masculinity. Her own argument goes against her here. To transition to becoming legally male is not necessarily to appropriate traditional masculinity or out of a desire to appropriate male privilege. And the masculinity that is practises by FTMs can be very self-aware.
Although I realise this is "popular non-fiction," there is such a wealth of feminist literature that Levy could have drawn on to support her argument. Her reliance almost solely on interviews makes her argument less substantial than I wish it had been.
Overall, she makes some very important points and encourages the reader to challenge the rhetoric that women are so often fed about girl power and empowerment etc, and to make us ask, "is is true?" and if not, "why haven't we come far enough yet?"